Tumilty building positivity ahead of Olympic qualifiers in Canada
Newly-appointed Ireland men's coach Mark Tumilty wants to put a smile back on his players' faces ahead of their six-week preparation phase for the Olympic qualifiers against Canada in Vancouver.
Tumilty will take charge of his first training camp next weekend as he looks to turn around the team's fortunes.
So far, 2019 has been a year to forget with the miserable 4-0 loss to Wales in August ensuring relegation from the top tier in Europe.
Dutchman Alex Cox resigned in the wake of that defeat, leaving a vacuum for the short lead-up to the Olympic qualifiers but the former Banbridge boss says "the raw materials" are all in place to turn things around quickly.
"We need to play with a belief again, believe in our own ability and play on the front foot," he said.
"Hopefully my key skills will be in the man-management side to bring the players together. If we can get the enjoyment going - there has to be fun - and play with a smile on our face, we will go to Canada and perform."
Tumilty takes on the role after a hugely successful club career. He won two Irish Hockey Leagues as well as two Irish Senior Cups with Bann.
He stepped away from that role in summer after nine seasons and had planned to develop his coaching by working in other sports before he was contacted by Hockey Ireland's high performance manager Adam Grainger.
"When the opportunity arose to coach the national team, I couldn't refuse. Did I ever want to do the national job? Absolutely! Did I ever think I would get a chance? Probably not."
Indeed, Tumilty has never held an Ireland underage coaching role but, crucially, points out that the Olympic qualifiers is not like international hockey's usual 10-day format.
"The one thing is we are not going into tournament hockey; I don't have that tournament experience. But I know double-header weekends and that is what this is. It will be a huge step up but I have done well with the Euro Hockey League and club championship environment.
"It's a huge challenge but we do have a big chance against Canada."